Monday, December 18, 2006

Young At Heart

I've used the expression "only in America" a lot on this trip and since coming here to our park in central Florida, I've even had to adapt it to "only in Buttonwood Bay"

Age is no barrier to having fun and taking part in fun activities and this was brought home last night with the annual Christmas Golf Cart Parade followed by a cookie fest and entertainment in the rec hall. Just about everyone either took part or turned up for the festivities and a grand evening was had by one and all. Well actually I'd better not claim that as who knows......some may have fallen asleep or not liked parts of the evening and come on, we WERE up after 8pm by the end of it all.

The parade started at 5:30pm at the far end of the park and as it was due to snake along most of the internal streets/roads before ending at the large rec building, we couldn't be sure when it would get to where we'd decided to watch it.

In the end we drove OUR sadly undecorated cart down the hill and just stayed with some friends along the edge of the road which led to the building. We soon had lots more residents eagerly joining us and by 6pm it was almost like we were awaiting the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in NYC. Almost !

Several 'non parade' carts went by from to time containing people heading for the rec building to be there for the food and entertainment and each one got ironic applause from the gathered watchers and this elicited cheery waves from the occupants. Some seemed to be suggesting they were the No.1 cart that wasn't in the parade but of course I may have interpreted the raised middle finger the wrong way. Well it was dark after all !!!

After wating for over an hour (just how big IS this park ??!!!) the cry went up that the carts were coming and we all perked up. I'd taken a few test shots of the non parade carts to try and get the right camera settings, but in the end I decided to just leave it on 'auto' and keep my fingers crossed. There would definitely be no time for altering settings as carts went by.

As with any decent Christmas parade, Santy Claus and his missus led from the front and as their cart was also in the competition, we immediately knew that there were 22 more carts to come. No getting past us, y'know.

Thankfully there were few visiting kids around as after this parade leading Santa went by, another one and his wife came along. Very confusing for the young and probably just as confusing for a lot of the oldies.
Remember that in here, confusion comes as standard.

The second manifestation of the festive duo was actually more impressive than the first - mainly due to their cart having got an extension. This was obviously the 'well-to-do' Santa who had invested well over the years and together with a good pension and stock market portfolio, was the Santa version of Bill Gates.

We watchers applauded and gasped in a suitable fashion.

One of my favourite carts came soon after as it was made up to look like a

sled. I found this very impressive and it was obvious that a lot of time and effort had gone into it's design.

In the darkness it was actually easy to forget it was, in fact, a golf cart at all. It was the only one that was like this and although some others may have been more impressively decorated, you STILL knew they were just that - decorated golf carts.

I think my vote would've gone to this one for this deception alone.

There had been a buzz around the park for days that someone had removed the top of their cart and added a full sized (and lit) Christmas tree on a platform on the back.

Suddenly it came along and what a sight it was ! Sadly my camera thought it was just too bright for it's liking and took a pathetic shot of it.

Take my word for it (and after all that's all you CAN take - darn my photographic inadequacies), it was awesome.

There was also a cart which reminded us of home - or my my case, my adopted home. Along came a Michigan cart which won a hearty cheer and much whistling from my friends.

I love the irony that a similar cart in a parade in Michigan right now would be stuck in several feet of snow.

Have I mentioned recently how much I'm loving winter in Florida ??!!

I'm loving winter in Florida.

I kept expecting to hear "It's A Small World" or some such Disney type music blaring out as this parade was certainly worthy of being held there.

Once all the carts had passed us by, they parked at the side of the rec building so everyone who wanted to vote for their favourites could have closer inspections. This was definitely needed as much of the detailed work on the carts wasn't obvious at the speed at which they passed us in the parade. I was anxious to examine the 'Bocce' cart which had been decorated by our team mates - who had been fortified by copious amounts of beer and pizza by all accounts.

It brought a tear to my eye. Such craftsmanship, such attention to detail, such expert planning, such a waste of beer !!!

I'll just include one more photo of the carts as any more and I may lose my readers !

This one impressed me as the design and materials used really made it look like it was snow covered.

I'd have given it an award for sure.

It was a prime example of a cart that needed close inspection and again I think the organisers did a great job by having all the carts parked up like this. We were able to walk among them and see what hard work and effort had gone into their creation.

Of course most of the residents had dived inside to get seated at the tables. A lot of park dwellers had gone back to their home states to be with loved ones at Christmas but the rec building was still packed to it's rafters and the air was blue with good natured swearing and cussing as walking frames, oxygen tanks, sticks and other appliances tried to be located next to their owners.

I'm joking......but it was noisy. There are 940 units of one shape or size in this park and I think we may have had squatters or something as it seemed like thousands had turned up for the cookies on offer.

While we all got settled or mingled before getting settled, you could pay $1 for charity and have your pic taken with Mr. & Mrs. Claus and even sit on their knees if you felt so inclined. I assume they were residents too and so would've had relatively aged knees so I felt for them when robust, if not quite portly, residents would go the whole nine yards and plonk themselves down on them.

To my knowledge, no one went crashing in an undignified heap so it was all good fun and hopefully lots of money was raised.

I do wonder at the photographs which will be winging their way via email to the families of these people.

Little Britney and Clint will be looking online and asking their folks.....hey mom/dad, just what medication is nana and gramps on down there ???

Similarly confused and bewildered parents will be replying.....shushhhhh kids. They're happy and medicare is paying for it all !!!

And so the evening wore on and it was cookie time. We all lined up by table and went along the kitchen serving area and picked what we wanted from an incredible assortment of colourful freshly baked goodies.

I mentally asked my cardiologist to look the other way and snapped up about half a dozen of the little artery cloggers and took them back to my seat.

Soon the only sounds in the room were of teeth (real and false) clicking and clacking as half a ton of sweet sweet items were devoured. While not exactly a feeding frenzy, it reminded me of a documentary I'd watched years ago of a pride of lions, or maybe jackels, pulling apart some unfortunate, but thankfully dead, wildebeest. Withered but amazingly stong forearms were a blur and crumbs went flying everywhere and by the time the announcer went to the stage to bring a start to the next phase of the evening, the tables were as bare as the special offers section of WalMart at 5:05am on Black Friday.

We were fed and ready to be entertained.

It turned out that to start with, we had to be the ones to entertain ourselves as communal carol singing was first up.

Led by an enthusiastic little group of singers on stage, we were asked to pick up the carol lyric sheets on each table and basically let it rip. No, not rip the sheets, silly, but sing along with verve and gusto.

Didn't these people notice the oxygen cylinders for goodness sake ?? Many of the assembled audience probably couldn't remember the last time they'd done ANYTHING with much gusto. Ok get your thoughts out of the gutter !!

At this point we did have a potentially nasty moment as some bright spark (maybe not the most apt choice of words) decided to lay down some sort of festive atmosphere by dimming the lights so much that all you could see was the odd twinkling glass eye and a plethera of pearly white dentures. There were low mutterings which soon swelled to loud complaints that no one could now see the carol sheets. If it's one thing I've learned from my time here it's that oldies do NOT put up quietly with things that upset, annoy or generally tick them off.

And quite right too.

So if the sight of hundreds of residents sarcastically raising their carol sheets high above their heads as if to read by moonlight wasn't enough to get the point across, then the din of many more hundreds of geriatric voices wailing their disapproval did the trick - as the lights came back on again and the singing got going.

After that, those who were still able to breathe unaided settled down to listen to the pros. I use the word in a VERY general sence. Some sort of comedy sketch began and we just knew it wasn't going to be up to much as the announcer and chief sketchee warned us there had been no rehearsal and basically she'd no idea what was coming herself.

Lets just say it truely lived down to her expectations and draw a veil over it all. We were all stuffed with cookies and it was close to 8pm so what did we care ?

We did get 3 songs from some 3rd placed 'winner' of a local version of American Idol and although she struggled with some of the notes of Robbie Williams' "Angel", she found her feet with a more upbeat and easier to sing Christmas carol and ended with a song so memorable that I've totally forgotten what it was.

She looked good and was young enough to be my daughter - oh ok my granddaughter - and so was very pleasing on the eye if not the ear.

Finally we had the awards for the winners of the best decorated carts and houses in various categories and suddenly the event was over and the stampede to get home was on. With the benefit of having lived through a similar situation at Thanksgiving, we stayed back a few minutes to let the hoards get out ahead of us as the last thing you need a week before Christmas Day is to have a toe crushed by a speeding oxygen tank or worse still, find yourself in a walking frame sandwich. These people can be vicious when bedtime comes a-callin' and they are not at home.

Once the sounds of squeeling tyres and the smell of burning rubber had gone, we ventured out into the balmy night air and went home ourselves. As we drove along the road and looked at the wonderfully decorated houses with their blaze of Christmas lights merrily twinkling and sending out festive cheer, I decided that these aging residents, who could so easily have sat back and done little or nothing for Christmas, had put to shame many of lesser years who simply shop themselves into debt and call it 'a good Christmas'.

These people gave us all a very prized commodity- their time. As with all things here in Buttonwood Bay, it was given without any wish for payment but just thanks and gratitude and I for one wish to give both in adundance.

Happy Christmas, Buttonwood Bay.

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